How not to get a job in financial services

Look, I’m not easily offended, OK? I get flamed all the time, disregard opinions daily, and give the silent treatment to half a dozen people in any given week. (Why hit back at people when you can just write them off?) But if I’d been the Presenter at the Career Development sesh this afternoon, I’d have walked out in a huff after five minutes.

This afternoon was the first ‘industry’ session: How to Get a Job in Financial Services, presented by a real-live investment banker type. And frankly, I’m disappointed. Not at the Presenter – who was terrific, a typical hard-edged City bloke, toughened by decades in the Square Mile, who just told it like it is – but at the attitudes of my classmates towards him.

First things first. I hate lateness, and as class filed into the lecture theatre, a LOT of us are late. We’re talking ten, fifteen minutes late: for a guy who probably makes job offers to 200-300 people like us a year and makes this presentation to thousands more. What, exactly, is the impression created if you’re a quarter hour late and arrive in jeans and hoodie?

For most of the class, this session was a wake-up call. Not for me – I’m here for a different reason (getting inside the heads of the guys who fund my clients’ companies) and investment banking comes slightly below astronaut on the list of careers I’m likely to pass an interview in. But a lot of the folk here think an MBA is a free pass into whatever high-paying career you want, so seeing their delusions shattered was undeniably enjoyable.

Worst part: the presenter’s pronouncements – a guy with 30 years of City experience – get booed, questioned and discounted as if the real world followed the rules of MBAland. This is just plain disrespectful: the guy’s here as an expert giving his informed opinion, NOT a sounding board for complaints.

And the questions! 50% are crass, irrelevant, or downright rude. Arguing with the presenter’s definition of what an ’emotional support structure’ is – not only offtopic, but insulting. Other questions were less about how to get a job, more about Why You Should Give Me a Job, self-justifying and arrogant. One question was even “The average MBA has two or three job offers… why should I want to join your investment bank?” (The banker’s answer wasn’t – quite – a two-word phrase starting with F, but his expression came pretty close.)

The (to my mind, ignorant) questions keep coming. A definition of ‘Special Investment Vehicle’ – what the FUCK???!!! Something you can get from two minutes of Googling, in a session with a specific topic and purpose? The problem with this crowd: they’re just too nice, unfocussed, too warm and fuzzy, just not badass enough. They genuinely don’t think this job is one they have to work for. Their sense of entitlement is awesome.

I keep wanting to jump up and scream: “THIS IS HOW IT IS, PEOPLE! These are the conditions you must work within if you want a career in the ridiculous business called Financial Services! You have to deal with the world AS IT IS, NOT HOW YOU MIGHT LIKE IT TO BE!!!”

Then we hit the numbers. The whole reason pay tends to be good in financial services is that the work is that killer combination of both difficult and dull. Which is why – according to our genial host – a ten-year stint in corporate finance will net you $10m, with the sky the limit.

A ex-military guy on the course can’t quite get his head around this number. I hear his gasping exhortations: “TTT – Te – Ten – Mill – mill – mmmm…..” When I turn round, his face has gained an incredulous starstruck expression that won’t fade for hours. I’m pretty sure I actually saw his eyeballs rolling down the aisles and him chasing blindly after them to put them back in. This is the one moment of positive entertainment in the session.

While the atmosphere has improved over the afternoon – possibly because my classmates have been dosed with Reality Check – I feel it’s hardly been a good session for the presenter, and since top business schools like WBS depend on attracting such guys to make their curricula look good, the MBA programme participants just didn’t do their job here. Hey, it’s our school too, folks, and we didn’t do its name justice. If I’d been in his shoes – let’s call him Mr WhyHeWent – I’d have been pretty angry at my class’s attitude.

Actually, I’m pretty worked up even being AMONG my class, and NOT because I actually bothered putting on a suit and tie. WAKE UP AND SMELL SHAKESPEARE COUNTRY, PEOPLE! This – is – NOT – some – piece-of-shit B-school in Ohmigodwhatanassend-oda-nation, KY that’s proud to be in the second-from-bottom 1000, damnit! This is WARWICK BUSINESS SCHOOL, in the top 1% of world MBA programmes INCLUDING the ones in the USA. I know it’s costing us £25K (plus about four times that in lost earnings if you’re ME) but anyone who works hard here is, indeed, likely to get a couple of excellent job offers to show for it next year. Show a little PRIDE.

Oh shit. I’m becoming a swot.

One thought on “How not to get a job in financial services

  1. I agree with you on this, some people are not serious about the course and they have some unrealistic expectations from the school not to mention the their lack of responsibility towards the school and other cohorts!

    I attended this session in March when I was here for a career's event and It gave me enough reasons to say NO to a career in financial services. Before it, I had some idea about the “reality” but the session strengthened my belief.

    By the way yesterday your green Versace was looked kool 🙂

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